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How to avoid power-hungry TVs and home entertainment appliances

Cut down on energy costs by choosing the right device.

icons of high energy usage entertainement appliances
Last updated: 03 February 2022
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Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Air conditioners, fridges, freezers and clothes dryers are some of the biggest energy guzzlers in our homes. But TVs and home entertainment systems can use a surprising amount of household energy too. 

If you're looking to lower your energy bill, the good news is you don't simply have to limit the number of binge-worthy shows you're watching. 

We've crunched the numbers and look at some of the most and least energy-hungry appliances we've tested to find out how much you could save. 

two people watching tv at night

Choose a TV that's the right size for your room, rather than the largest screen available.

TVs

According to IBISWorld, Australians spend an average of two hours and 21 minutes watching TV each day. Plus, most people leave TVs permanently plugged in and on standby when not in use, which adds to their energy costs. 

But there are ways you can reduce the amount of electricity your TV uses.

Ditch the plasma

Manufacturers have stopped making plasma TVs, but if you're still hanging on to an older model we recommend you make the switch and upgrade. 

"Not only do LCD and OLED TVs use less electricity, but they're also lighter and less bulky and aren't as prone to burning (this is when an image becomes permanently imprinted on the screen)," says CHOICE TV and home entertainment expert Denis Gallagher. 

Do you really need a bigger TV?

When buying a TV, choose a model that's the right size for your room rather than the largest screen available. A bigger TV means you have to sit further away from it to avoid seeing the pixels – and not everyone has the space to do that.

"Plus, generally speaking, the bigger the screen the greater the energy consumption," says Gallagher.

We compared the yearly energy costs of running a TV and found you could save nearly $200 by choosing the most efficient model. 

But if you are after a larger TV, you can still find models that use less energy. For example, we found three 65-inch TVs that cost at least $100 less to run each year than the energy-hungry example below. 

Least energy-efficient

Samsung QA65Q80AAW

  • RRP: $2670
  • Display size: 65 inches
  • Annual running cost: $223*

Most energy-efficient

Bauhn (Aldi) ATV32HDG-0121

  • RRP: $249
  • Display size: 32 inches
  • Annual running cost: $32*

*Annual running costs = Running costs per year standby. Based on 30c/kWh with the TV in standby mode for 14 hours a day.

More TV energy-saving tips

No matter which TV you have, there are extra steps you can take to help lower the amount of energy they use. 

"Check the specifications of your TV to see if it comes with an energy-saving mode and follow the instructions to turn it on," says Gallagher. 

You can also reduce electricity consumption by turning down the brightness, contrast and even the volume. "This will help reduce your energy costs, but don't adjust them so much that they ruin your viewing experience," he adds. 

And if you use your TV for background noise, try switching to the radio instead. "It has the same effect and is more energy efficient," Gallagher says.

"Another option would be to turn off all the wireless connectivity features that may be churning through energy on your TV, such as Wi-Fi." 

generic dvr digital video recorder

Our testing has found that video recording devices are massive standby-energy hogs.

PVRs and DVRs

CHOICE testing has found that these video recording devices are massive standby-energy hogs. In our view, any PVR or DVR device that uses more than 1.5 Watt hours (Wh) in standby mode is unacceptable, yet in our 2020 review we found that all models used between 4.2 and 18.8Wh.

"An energy-inefficient device means paying more for unnecessary power, not to mention the environmental effects," says Gallagher. 

But if you still want to buy one, it's worth comparing the overall annual running costs, as we've found savings of up to 68%.

Least energy-efficient PVR or DVR

Strong SRT 7014

  • RRP: $249
  • Hard disk capacity: 500GB
  • Annual running cost: $51.70

Most energy-efficient PVR or DVR

Panasonic DMR-BWT955GL

  • RRP: $799
  • Hard disk capacity: 2000GB
  • Annual running cost: $16.40

Another option for a simple PVR would be to see if your existing TV can make use of an external hard drive, connected via the USB port on your TV, for simple recording of live TV shows or 'pausing' them so you can go make a cuppa without missing a thing.

closeup of soundbar speakers

We found a massive 97% difference in energy costs between the most and least energy-guzzling soundbars.

Soundbars

Not all soundbars are created equal when it comes to energy use. We tested 44 models in our latest review and, of those, 17 received a standby energy score of 0%.

In fact, when we compared the annual standby energy costs, we found a massive 97% difference in energy costs between the most and least energy guzzling models.

Most of this inefficiency is due to the extra smart features such as Wi-Fi, which means the soundbar is never truly in standby mode (which uses energy too). 

If you already have one of these fully featured soundbars, you may want to turn off the Wi-Fi connectivity, as most of the content you'd need Wi-Fi for would be available on your smart TV anyway.

Least energy-efficient soundbar

Polk Magnifi mini

  • RRP: $499
  • Type: Soundbar and sub
  • Annual standby energy cost: $21.10

Most energy-efficient soundbar

Bauhn Soundbar

  • RRP: $80
  • Type: Soundbar
  • Annual standby energy cost: $0.70

Although you might expect a soundbar with a sub to cost more to run than a soundbar alone, it's still worth doing a thorough comparison. 

We found five similar soundbar and sub models (with differing dimensions) that would be about $20 cheaper to run every year than the Polk Magnifi mini: Panasonic SC-HTB700, Polk Signa S2, Denon DHT-S316, Klipsch RSB-11 and TCL TS9030.

smart speaker on coffee table

Wi-Fi connectivity in smart speakers can really add to their energy use.

Smart speakers

These are designed to be on all the time to do their job, which means their Wi-Fi connectivity can really guzzle energy – especially if you have several scattered throughout your house in different rooms. 

In fact, our tests have found that the difference in annual running costs between the most and least energy-efficient models can be about $15 (for mains-connected home speakers), so it's always worth taking those costs into consideration. 

Least energy-efficient smart speaker

Ikea Symfonisk Table Lamp speaker

  • RRP: $269
  • Type: Home speaker
  • Annual running cost: $16.57

Most energy-efficient smart speaker

Ikea Eneby (gen 2)

  • RRP: $69
  • Type: Home speaker
  • Annual running cost: $1.41

More energy saving tips

Check the energy rating label

TVs are required by law to meet a minimum level of energy efficiency and to display their energy rating label in stores. The more stars a TV has, the more energy efficient it is. 

But beware: you can't use the number of stars to compare different-sized TVs, because the size of the TV is used proportionally to calculate how many stars it gets. So a 65-inch TV may have the same number of stars as a 32-inch model, even though it uses more energy.

Instead, when looking for an energy-efficient TV, take into account both the energy consumption and the number of stars.

Cut down on devices

The average home is expected to have more than 35 internet-connected devices by the year 2024, so the running costs can really stack up.  

Depending on what your AV preferences are (and what you're willing to sacrifice), reducing the number of home entertainment devices you own could really put a dent in your overall energy costs. 

Switch them off

Switching your TV and other devices off at the plug, instead of leaving them in standby mode, is another cost-saving measure. It won't make a huge difference to your energy bills, but it will add up over time, and is better for the environment too.

Alternatively, consider using a standby electricity controller for your home-entertainment equipment. These devices automatically switch off appliances when they're not being used.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.